Balaee: Kala Chana Khichdi Cooked in Buttermilk from Himachal Pradesh

Khichdi is such a comfort food for all Indians and there are so many variations of it across the length and breadth of India. Today I present Balaee, a khichdi made with rice, chana, and buttermilk in the Kangra Valley region of Himachal Pradesh.

Balaee - Khichdi with Chana and Cooked in Buttermilk
Balaee – Khichdi with Chana and Cooked in Buttermilk

I found this recipe in Divya Sud Qureshi‘s Flavours from the Kangra Valley, and jumped at a chance to make it because I saw how creamy khichdi is when buttermilk is used as the cooking medium when I made Moong Dal Palak Khichdi Cooked with Buttermilk.

I tried this recipe this past week and must say it will become a regular in our home now along with other Kangra Valley recipes such as Raintha and Mandra.

How to Make Balaee: A Rice and Kala Chana Khichdi

Serves: 4

Soaking Time: 8 to 12 Hours

Cooking Time: 30 Mins

Ingredients

  1. Rice – 1 Cup
  2. Kala Chana – 2/3 Cup
  3. Onion – 1 Large
  4. Butter Milk – 3 Cups
  5. Coriander Seeds – 2 tsp
  6. Cumin Seeds – 3/4 tsp
  7. Fenugreek Seeds – 1/3 tsp
  8. Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  9. Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
  10. Ghee – 2 tsp
  11. Salt to Taste

Soaking the Chana

  1. Wash and soak the chana in 2 cups water for at least 8 hours.
  2. Drain the water and set aside the soaked chana.

Preparing the Rice

  1. Wash and soak the rice in water for 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the water and set aside the soaked rice.

Preparing the Masala

  1. Dry roast the coriander seeds till they just start to change colour. Set aside to cool.
  2. Dry roast the cumin seeds till they just start to change colour. Set aside to cool.
  3. Dry roast the fenugreek seeds till they just start to change colour. Set aside to cool.
  4. Grind together the coriander, cumin, and fenugreek to a fine powder.

Method to Make Balaee

  1. Peel and thinly slice the onion.
  2. In a heavy bottomed vessel, heat the ghee.
  3. Add the thinly sliced onions and 1/4 tsp salt.
  4. Fry till the onion turns light brown.
  5. Add the masala powder, red chilli powder, and turmeric.
  6. Mix well.
  7. Add the drained rice and saute for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the drained kala chana.
  9. Mix well.
  10. Add the butter milk and 2/3 tsp salt.
  11. Mix well.
  12. Over medium flame, cook covered while mixing occasionally till the rice and chana are cooked.
    Or
    Pressure cook for 4 whistles.
  13. Season with salt, if required.
  14. Mix well.
  15. Serve Balaee hot with a generous dollop of ghee.
Balaee - Khichdi from Himachal Pradesh
Balaee – Khichdi from Himachal Pradesh

Tips

  • I pressure cooked this Khichdi because I wanted the Kala Chana to cook well.
  • You can also add 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic while frying the onions. I did not.
  • I used browned onions and coriander as a garnish for the Balaee. The original recipe did not call for that. 🙂

 

Raintha – Dates and Spinach Raita – A Kangra Valley Dham Recipe – Fiesta Friday #47

Raintha - Akhrot aur Palak Raita, Spinach, Walnut and Yogurt Dip
Raintha – Akhrot aur Palak Raita

I have already talked about the Dham or the traditional village feast at a Kangra Valley Wedding in my post on Mandra (Chickpeas in Yogurt). While I loved the Mandra, the dish that made a lasting impact on me was the Raintha, a traditional raita made with Khajur, Palak, and Walnut Paste.

I had asked the cooks at the Dham about the recipe but they were quite cagey. Actually, they were quite bemused by a bevy of South Indian Belles (allow me my delusions :-)) who were crowding around the buffet, ooh-ing and aah-ing over various dishes.

While my quest for the recipe began at the Dham, it came to fruition in Amchi Mumbai; and not from one but two sources. The first source was the Father of the Bride through the Bride (Shainy Sood, Thank you so much! 🙂 :-)) and the second source was Divya Sud Qureshi’s book Flavours from the Kangra Valley.

My recipe is an amalgamation of both recipes and has some tweaks to make up for some ingredients that are not easily found.

Kangra Valley cuisine uses something called as Walnut Masala, which is made by roasting whole walnuts over fire till they are black and then grinding them with a mortar and pestle. I could not find whole walnuts easily so I used shelled walnuts and roasted 1/2 of them over open fire. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

The result was finger-licking good! 🙂

Serves: 4

Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

  1. Fresh Palak or Spinach – 1 Large Bunch
  2. Dahi or Yogurt – 2 Cups
  3. Pitted or Seedless Khajur or Dates – 20 to 25
  4. Akhrot or Walnuts – 1/4 Cup
  5. Haldi or Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
  6. Dhania or Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
  7. Lal Mirchi or Red Chilli Powder – 1/2 tsp
  8. Roasted Methi or Fenugreek Powder – 1/4 tsp
  9. Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
  10. Mustard Oil – 1/4 Cup

Method to Prep the Dates

  1. Cut the dates into thin long strips.
  2. Soak the date strips in 1.5 cups water for 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Remove the dates from water. Save the water.
  4. Set aside.

Method to Make the Walnut Paste

  1. Hold a piece of walnut between tongs.
  2. Roast it over an open flame and turn it over slowly.
  3. Let the walnut roast till it chars.
  4. Repeat with 1/2 of the walnuts.
  5. Grind all walnuts together with a little water into a smooth paste. I used the water in which the dates were soaked.

Method to Make the Spinach Puree

  1. Remove the stalks from the spinach.
  2. Chop roughly.
  3. Grind to a smooth paste with a little water. I used the water in which the dates were soaked.

Method to Make the Raintha

  1. In a heavy-bottomed vessel, heat the mustard till smoking point and till it becomes transparent.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool a bit.
  3. Add the cumin seeds, turmeric powder, coriander powder, roasted fenugreek powder, and chilli powder.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Turn on the heat and set to medium.
  6.  Add the dates and the walnut paste.
  7. Saute for 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Add the spinach puree.
  9. Saute till the water evaporates and the paste starts to leave oil from the sides. At this point, the mix is dark green in colour.
  10. Turn off the heat.
  11. Beat the yogurt to a smooth paste and add to the cooked date-spinach mix.
  12. Mix well.
  13. Add some of the water in which the dates were soaked.
  14. Mix well.
  15. Turn on the heat.
  16. Over medium heat, cook the Raintha till it starts to bubble.
  17. Turn off the heat.
  18. Serve warm!

Tips

  • I was told to use dark green food colour to enhance the look of the Raintha. However, I do not like to use artificial colours as much as possible and so did not add any.
  • Divya’s recipe calls for straining the spinach puree and using the liquid. I used the puree as is.
Raintha - Akhrot aur Palak Raita, Spinach, Walnut and Yogurt Dip is a recipe found in a Dham in the Kangra Valley
Raintha – Spinach, Yogurt, Walnuts and Dates

I am taking this recipe to the party that is on at Fiesta Friday #47!

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

Madra or Mandra – Chickpeas in Yogurt Sauce – Kangra Valley Dham Recipe

Madra or Mandra - Kangra Dham Recipe - Himachal Pradesh
Madra or Mandra – Kangra Dham Recipe – Himachal Pradesh

A couple of months ago, I had the chance to visit the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh to attend a wedding. I used the time to also see this beautiful part of India. Given the limited time I had, I did the usual tourist circuit of Dharmashala and McLeodganj.

This part of India is simply beautiful. Set in the lap of Dhauladhar mountain range, the Kangra valley was calm and peaceful with greenery and gurgling streams all around.

I was also quite taken by the cuisine of the region. Mild and flavourful, it was quite different from anything I had tasted before. Some of the best food I tasted was at the Dham or the Village feast that was a part of the wedding ceremony. I had quite a few unusual dishes such as Raintha (made from spinach, burnt walnut and dates) and Teliyah Maah (black gram in mustard oil).

Another integral part of a Dham is Madra or Mandra, which is mildly-spiced chickpeas cooked in yogurt.

Since I returned to Mumbai, I have been looking up the Dham recipes and this is when I came across Divya Sud Qureshi‘s Flavours from the Kangra Valley that is a treasure trove of traditional Kangra recipes. I would recommend that every foodie gets a copy of this book.

This recipe for the Madra/Mandra is adapted from the recipe in this book.

Serves: 4

Soaking Time: 8 to 12 Hours

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients

  1. Chickpeas – 1.5 Cups
  2. Yogurt – 2 Cups
  3. Cloves – 4
  4. Cinnamon – 1″ Piece
  5. Green Cardamom – 4
  6. Black Cardamom – 1
  7. Bay Leaf – 1
  8. Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  9. Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
  10. Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
  11. Fenugreek Seeds – 1/4 tsp
  12. Cumin Seeds – 1/2 tsp
  13. Sugar – 1 tsp
  14. Rice Flour or Chickpea Flour – 1 tsp
  15. Ghee – 1 tsp
  16. Asafoetida – A Large Pinch
  17. Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
  18. Salt to Taste

Method

  1. Soak the chickpeas in 4 cups of water for 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Wash the chickpeas thoroughly.
  4. Set aside.
  5. In a heavy-bottomed wok or kadai, roast the fenugreek seeds till they start to change colour.
  6. Grind the fenugreek to a fine powder.
  7. In the wok, over medium heat, heat the ghee.
  8. Add cumin seeds, green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf.
  9. Stir-fry till the spices release their aroma.
  10. Add asafoetida, red chilli powder, fenugreek powder, and coriander powder.
  11. Mix well.
  12. Add the chick peas.
  13. Mix well.
  14. Add 3 cups of water.
  15. Over medium heat, cook covered till the chickpeas soften and are tender. Add more water, if required.
  16. Turn off the heat.
  17. Add the sugar and rice/chickpea flour to the yogurt and beat well.
  18. Add the beaten yogurt to the cooked chickpeas.
  19. Add some water, if required, to form a gravy of pouring consistency.
  20. Place on low heat and bring to a simmer.
  21. Turn off the heat.
  22. Sprinkle the garam masala over the Madra or Mandra.
  23. Serve hot with rotis, puris, bhaturas, or even steamed rice.